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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Surface Water Quality

Potential of Enterococcus faecalis as a Human Fecal Indicator for Microbial Source Tracking


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 31 No. 4, p. 1286-1293
    Received: Sept 4, 2001

    * Corresponding author(s): pghartel@arches.uga.edu
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  1. Andrea L. Wheeler,
  2. Peter G. Hartel *,
  3. Dominique G. Godfrey,
  4. Jennifer L. Hill and
  5. William I. Segars
  1. Department of Crop & Soil Sciences, 3111 Plant Sciences, Univ. of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-7272


Regulatory agencies are interested in a fecal indicator bacterium with a host range limited to humans because human fecal contamination represents the greatest hazard to humans, yet is a relatively easy nonpoint source to remedy. Watersheds with human fecal contamination could be given first priority for cleanup. A fecal indicator bacterium with a host range limited to humans and a few other warm-blooded animal species would also simplify microbial source tracking because only a few animal species would be required for any host origin database. The literature suggests that the fecal indicator bacterium Enterococcus faecalis has a limited host range. On this basis, we selected this bacterium for study. Of 583 fecal streptococcal isolates obtained on Enterococcosel agar from Canada goose, cattle, deer, dog, human, chicken, and swine, 392 were considered presumptive enterococci and were subsequently speciated with the API 20 Strep system. Of these isolates, 22 were Ent. durans (5.6%), 61 were Ent. faecalis (15.6%), 98 were Ent. faecium (25.0%), 86 were Ent. gallinarum (21.9%), and 125 were unidentified (31.9%). The host range of the Ent. faecalis isolates was limited to dogs, humans, and chickens. Media were developed to isolate and identify Ent. faecalis quickly from fecal samples and this scheme eliminated Ent. faecalis isolates from dogs. When the remaining Ent. faecalis isolates were ribotyped, it was possible to differentiate clearly among the isolates from human and chicken. It may be that combining the potentially limited host range of Ent. faecalis with ribotyping is useful for prioritizing watersheds with fecal contamination.

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Copyright © 2002. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.31:1286–1293.